Archaeologists have uncovered an Ancient Egyptian cemetery dated to more than 3,000 years ago containing the colorful coffin of a high priest’s daughter and preserved mummies, among hundreds of other finds.
Researchers unearthed the cemetery at the Tuna el-Gebel necropolis, located almost 170 miles south of Cairo in Minya Governate, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced in a statement on Sunday.
The cemetery, which dates back to the New Kingdom (16th-11th centuries B.C.) of ancient Egypt, was used as a burial ground for senior officials and priests during the period, according to archaeologists.
The cemetery was uncovered during excavations that began last August in the Al-Ghuraifa area of Tuna El-Gebel and features “many tombs” that have been carved into rock.
Researchers have also made hundreds of archaeological finds at the site, including stone and wooden coffins—some of which contained mummies—amulets, ornaments and funerary figurines.
One of the most notable finds at the cemetery is a colorful, engraved coffin belonging to the daughter of a high priest of the ancient Egyptian god Djehuti, often referred to as Thoth.
This deity, commonly depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or baboon, was a key figure in ancient Egyptian mythology and played several prominent roles. For example, Thoth was credited with the invention of writing and is also believed to have served as a representative of the sun god Ra.
Next to the coffin of the high priest’s daughter, archaeologists found two wooden boxes containing her canopic jars, as well as a complete set of “ushabti” statues.
Canopic jars were vessels used by the ancient Egyptians to store the organs removed from the body in the process of mummification—the lungs, liver, intestines and stomach—in order to preserve them for the afterlife.
Ushabti statues, meanwhile, were figurines used in ancient Egyptian funerary practices that were placed in tombs in the belief that they would act as servants for the deceased in the afterlife.
Archaeologists also made another particularly fascinating find at the New Kingdom cemetery: a complete and well-preserved papyrus scroll measuring approximately 42-49 feet in length that features information related to the Book of the Dead.
The Book of the Dead is a collection of ancient Egyptian funerary texts consisting of spells or magic formulas that were placed in tombs. These texts were thought to protect and aid the deceased in the afterlife. They were generally written on papyrus, a material similar to thick paper that was used as a writing surface in ancient times.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in the statement that the discovery of the cemetery is an “important” find.